When your first job out of university is working for Catherine Martin on the film Australia, your career trajectory is looking positive. “I did some costume illustrations that ended up being shown at the 2009 Academy Awards when Catherine was nominated for an Oscar. I’d call that a pretty lucky break,” Picker says.

Picker’s work quickly gained momentum. She went on to work as a costume artist for feature films such as The Great Gatsby and Mad Max – carving out a niche for herself as a costume illustrator for the film industry.

“Another opportunity that has really driven my career along has been illustrating chef Peter Gilmore of Quay’s second book, Organum. Pete really loved my style and allowed me a lot of freedom to interpret his vision in my own way. I was really grateful to be included in that amazing project, and have got some really beautiful work as a direct result of it,” she says. Subsequently, Picker has provided her talent to clients such as Absolut Vodka, Mambo, Catherine Martin Home and Australian Gourmet Traveller magazine.

While naturally more inclined to artistic illustration, Picker instead enrolled herself into a design degree at COFA – a conscious decision to avoid what she refers to as “the life of a starving artist”. Picker’s graduation was thwarted by winning too much work along the way, and it eventually prevented her from completing her two final subjects. Despite not actually graduating, it turns out that the enrolment was a good decision. It set her on the path of doing exactly what she loves most. What she did glean from her course was the art of working to a client brief, and within the parameters of budget and deadline.

At the heart of Picker’s work is a lifelong love of botanical illustration. Her upcoming exhibition at Paddington’s Saint Cloche gallery, The Garden of Earthly Delights, is the culmination of two months of intensive illustration work for her first colouring book for adults of the same title. It will be available in Australia from late October. “I was very lucky to be approached by the team at Melbourne-based publisher Hardie Grant to do the book,” she says. There is already a second colouring book in the works.

In The Garden of Earthly Delights flowers bloom; lizards leap; bees swarm and mushrooms emerge in an exploration of the natural world. “The book was inspired by the idea of looking at every level of a garden in minute detail, from soaring birds and fluttering dragonflies, rustling leaves and towering blooms, right down to creepy bugs and worms,” says Picker. “The work is also quite self indulgent in a way, because I did tailor the subject matter to things that I really wanted to draw! I am absolutely obsessed with anything botanically related. My work is very focused on texture and I generally only work in black and white, so I feel it works well for colouring.”

On the current trend of adult-oriented colouring books, Picker says, “I feel that colouring for adults may be in part driven by a desire to have a break in the day from staring at a screen. Most of our time now is spent looking at a smartphone, TV or computer. [Colouring] is an activity that allows a digital detox.”

Visitors who can make it to Picker’s Sydney show at Saint Cloche can also enjoy an installation by floral artist Doctor Lisa Cooper. “[Lisa] was kind enough to give me some great source material for the book; particularly a beautiful slipper orchid. She’s also creating an installation for my show entitled Flower Drawing. I am very excited about that!” she says.

So, while she ticks off goals like a laundry list, where to next? “I would love to do an illustration for a textile design on a couture Valentino gown. Their use of motifs is so innovative and unexpected. Then I would wear that dress. ALL. THE. TIME. Even to bed,” Picker enthuses.

With her track record, it probably doesn’t hurt to aim so high.

The Garden of Earthly Delights is on sale now on Adriana Picker's Website

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